Have you ever heard of the story of the Elephants Child? It is a story by Rudyard Kipling about how the elephant got its long trunk. The Elephant’s Child was a young elephant who lived in a time before elephants had long noses. He travelled to the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River and met a crocodile there that grabbed his short nose and tried to pull him into the river to eat him. The Elephant’s Child pulled as hard as he could to stay out of the river and the more he pulled and the more the crocodile pulled the longer his nose got! Eventually the crocodile let go and the Elephant’s Child escaped, but his nose had grown until it was as long as elephant’s trunks are today.
We recently travelled to the Limpopo in the Mapungubwe National Park and were amazed at the vegetation, I love Fever Trees and Baobabs, the Baobab has always been to me a magical, mystical tree.
No other African tree is as shrouded in mythology and legend. It dominates the landscape and is an iconic representative of African flora.
- There are 8 species distributed worldwide only one of which is found in Africa- “Adansonia Digitata”.
- These trees can reach up to 25 metres in height and the largest recorded circumference was 1round 47 metres in Limpopo Province.
- The Baobab has a variety of names, such as Upside down tree, Cream of Tartar, Monkey Bread and Bottle tree.
- The trunk is smooth and pinkish grey in colour, during the dry season (9 months) the tree has no leaves, the branches look like an upside down network of roots.
- Late spring, early summer sees the appearance of leaves- it is difficult to recognise with its thick, large green leaves.
The tree has many uses and is highly regarded by local, populations; fibres of the bark can be used to make cloth, baskets, mats and ropes. Leaves can be boiled and eaten and the fruit is flavoursome. The fruit contains a high degree of Vitamins A and C as well as Tartaric Acid. It can be cooked or made into a drink. The oil extracted from the tree can be made into an excellent moisturiser to either rub into your skin or use as a moisturiser. The tree is actually much like a large succulent with the capacity to store up to 120 000 litres of water – size dependant. This enables it to survive long dry seasons – as the trunk does not have rings like other trees it is difficult to determine the exact age- carbon dating is also inaccurate so estimates based on size put the trees at anything from 1000 to 3000 years old, they dominate the landscape like wise old giants- to spend time in a landscape dotted by Baobabs is indeed the quintessential “African” moment.